Suicide has been all over the news lately. Recently we lost Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and
now Skylar Desmarais.
The suicide rate has increased by 25-57 percent since 1999 according to the CDC and CNN (depending on the state). What is causing this? How can we stop it?
Research indicates several of the following risk factors:
- Relationship difficulties/divorces and breakups/abuse
- Economic disparities/loss of employment/difficulty with one’s current financial situation
- Access to highly lethal means
- Limited access to mental health care
- Substance abuse
- Bullying and harassment
What can we do?
First and foremost includes what we can do on a personal level. If someone exhibits signs of a sudden change in mood, “anhedonia” meaning aversion to activities/hobbies they once found pleasurable, talking about suicide, talking about loss of hope, talking about feeling trapped, or giving away prized possessions, YOU need to start a discussion with them about how they are feeling. Don’t wait for them to open up. They may not be willing to talk about their suicidal thoughts the first time you mention it, but it will plant a seed of comfort, knowing that they can
come to you when they are ready. Continue to ask about how they are feeling, regardless of if they decide to converse further or not.
If someone sounds like they are actively planning to attempt suicide: take it seriously 100 percent of the time. Assume they are not saying it “for attention.” Life is too valuable to make those assumptions. Instead, call 911 or accompany them to the nearest emergency room.
The second thing we can do is prevention. If someone has suicidal thoughts, they need to be away from any highly lethal means of suicide. This includes guns, poisonous substances, and alcohol.
Next, we need to actively support mental health care. Do what you can to link them to resources for counseling. This can be tricky based on insurance companies/cost of treatment, access to a counselor, and time to attend sessions. Do what you can to help the suicidal person in your life (we all know someone, whether we’re aware of it or not. That’s how prevalent it is in society right now). They may not have the will to do it on their own and may
need some help.
If you see someone bullying someone else, call them out on their behavior and take it to someone higher up. For example, if you see it in your workplace, tell your coworker to stop as well as report it to your manager. If you see it in a school, tell the person to stop, and report it to your teacher or principal. See something, say something.
Last, we need to take it to legislation. If we’re going to combat the suicide epidemic, we need policies in place that will cut down the risk factors.
- Increase availabilities of domestic violence shelters for women escaping abuse.
- Increase the minimum wage so that people don’t feel so trapped financially.
- Increase mental health providers in the area/financial incentives for them to come here.
- Combat health care legislation that wants to limit access to mental health resources.
- If we support mental health care, there’s a distinct possibility that we could curb the substance abuse epidemic by giving these people hope. If they don’t have a reason to turn to substance abuse, perhaps they won’t. Many people who use drugs are trying to escape their problems. Instead of trying to escape them, perhaps we can support them in solving them.
This is important. It affects us all. If we decide to come together as a community to fight suicide, we can save a life. Saving even one makes it all worth it.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and includes chatting resources for those who are uncomfortable calling and would prefer to type. 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
Candace Moulton, is a registered nurse with a BS in Biochemistry, BSN, RN in Oncology and ACLS certified. She is a candidate for State Representative in Hillsborough District 44